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340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Jerry Bowles
(212) 582-3791

Managing Editor:
David Salvage

Contributing Editors:

Galen H. Brown
Evan Johnson
Ian Moss
Lanier Sammons
Deborah Kravetz
Eric C. Reda
Christian Hertzog
(San Diego)
Jerry Zinser
(Los Angeles)

Web & Wiki Master:
Jeff Harrington

Latest Posts

Love and Cow Bells
Sorceress of the New Piano
Well, That Was Fun
Naxos Dreaming
Reich@70: Let the Celebrations Begin
The Bi-Coastal Jefferson Friedman
Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
Attention Sequenza21 Shoppers


Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for review. Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Saturday, May 20, 2006
The New Hell's Kitchen

The dreaded Ninth Avenue Food Festival with the Time-Warner Center on the left, and Norman Foster's new Hearst Tower on the right.
Karl Rove Meets the Aphex Twin

If you like your news with an overlay of chillout electronica, get on over to Reuters Newsbeats. Here's the blurb: "Reuters Newsbeats blend music and news in a new media form. Powered by Newziq from Cellular Records we aim to bring daily mixes of Reuters news direct to your web browser or podcasts to your MP3 player." Useful? We report, you decide.

More news on the digital front. Have you checked out Urge, the new music service unveiled a couple of days ago by MTV and Microsoft? Don't think it works with Macs or iPods. Why can't we all just get along?

David Toub has three neat new reviews on the CD Reviews page--Ives Plays Ives, a John Cage number piece and some pioneers of electronic music.

Now Playing:
Flute Concerto; Violin Concerto; Pilgrims
Ned Rorem

I've always thought of Ned Rorem as something of a lightweight, a composer of tres amusant art songs and a pre-Wonkette tattletale diarist--more Reynalodo Hahn than Saint-Saens. Since his 80th birthday (nearly three years ago), a string of new recordings and performances has forced me to reconsider. Jose Serebrier, who cracked the door on Rorem's strengths as a symphonist a couple of years ago with his splendid Naxos recording of the three symphonies, has now flung the door wide open with this brilliant dazzler of a disc that showcases Rorem at three different stages of his career. Pilgrims, a short, somber piece for string orchestra, was written in 1958, not long after Rorem returned from Paris. The Violin Concerto, played eloquently and persuasively here by Philippe Quint, dates from 1984.

The real treasure of the disc--the Flute Concerto--was premiered by Jeffrey Khaner, principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2002. Khaner obviously loves the piece and plays it here with both supreme virtuosity and obvious tenderness. Because it is organized in six movements with the subtitles "The Stone Tower," "Leaving-Traveling-Hoping," "Sirens," Hymn," "False Waltz," and "Resume and Prayer," it is probably not entirely inaccurate to describe it as a series of songs without words. This is not to diminish its cohesiveness and cumulative power, or to reinforce the old Rorem cliche, however. This is a flute concerto for the ages.
Free Tickets

Who can review the American Modern Ensemble's concert of the music of Steven Stucky at Tenri Cultural Institute of New York on May 27 and/or May 28? (The second show is a repeat of the first.) Let me know and I'll get you a couple of free tickets. Looks like there's free wine, too.
Cotton picking music

Here's an interesting site: It contains transcripts and videos from a TV show Eugene Istomin did a few years back. Of interest to readers of Sequenza21 is a show where he interviewed six composers: Milton Babbitt, Richard Danielpour, Lowell Liebermann, George Perle, Ned Rorem, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Sorry Kyle, no Downtowners (an unpardonable oversight to me as well). In fact, the show opens with an assertion from Istomin that American music has its roots in Europe. Ned Rorem responds:
There's always been three kinds of music: the aristocratic music, music of the church, and music of the people. The music of the people was usually working-class music, with a regular beat, to keep them picking cotton; and that, of course, has become the music of our time, for better or for worse.

Other gems:

Liebermann's first composition teacher, Ruth Schonthal (a Hindemith pupil):
"You vill only have two uses for your music: to have pieces for yourself to play, and to seduce women." So that was her way of summing up the profession to me as a 13-year-old.

Rorem's interesting response to the question of the six greatest pieces of the 20th century (never mind that he names seven):
My list is significant for what it omits, I'm sure you'll be appalled. But it's simply the works that have had most impression, that have bowled me over the most. They're the Sacre du Printemps, Pelleas, Satie's Socrates, L'Enfant et les sortileges, Peter Grimes, Rosenkavalier, and the Copland Fantasy.

Eugene Istomin repeats a Gary Graffman anecdote:
Stravinsky once commented on Gary Graffman's programming his Serenade in A along with the Rachmaninoff Etudes-Tableaux in E-flat minor: "Oy, what a neighborhood for me to be in."

George Perle, discussing why the public is so ignorant of contemporary classical music:
When I was young, there were a lot of world-renowned composers around, and we heard their music. And then they began to die off, one by one, and nobody replaced them. And they're all gone now. I think the last one died maybe with Benjamin Britten, I don't know. But when I was a youngster, there was Ravel, he was still alive. Sibelius was still alive. Richard Strauss was still alive. Even Schoenberg was alive till 1951.

And they died, and I began to notice it: Where is somebody to take their place? And there isn't anybody. Now, that may be all right. There may be a new, we may not be dealing with masterworks in the future as we have in the past. Maybe we don't need masterworks.

Babbitt on being perceived by the European high modernists as an old fart (back when I studied with Ferneyhough in the 80's, he criticized Babbitt as well):
I hate to say this, I'm sorry, but there are European composers who regard all of us as very obsolescent. They have a new modernism, which they reward and which they perform. All you have to do to find out who they are is just notice the way they're regarded, the way they're rewarded. I know these people only because they get so much publicity, so much money. I get so much propaganda in the mail about them, I even know a couple of them personally. And the Lachenmann, for example. Do you have any idea of how many recordings of Lachenmann, how much money he makes, and how he regards all of us as being as least two centuries behind the times? It was a question of whether there is an avant garde, and these people regard themselves as the avant garde and we are the derriere.
My Oh My, What a Wonderful Day

The silliest internet feud so far has broken out between Sasha Frere-Jones, a blogger and music critic at The New Yorker, who labeled the songwriter and musician Stephin Merritt a "racist cracker" on his blog for his perceived lack of R-E-S-P-C-T for African-American music. The namecalling began about two years ago when Merritt compiled a list of 100 top pop tunes which was--to S/FJ's taste--insufficently attuned to black rhythms.

The feud died down until Merritt apparently conceded in some public forum recently that ""Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" is a pretty catchy tune although "Song on the South," the 1946 Disney "Uncle Remus" movie is horrible. Jessica Hopper, a contributor to The Chicago Reader and a blogger apparently left before she heard the word horrible and criticized Merritt on her blog for his "obsession with a racist cartoon." So, more namecalling has ensued.

I find this sort of if-you-don't-like hip-hop or rap you're a racist about as ridiculous an argument as the one that posits that if you like Wagner you're an anti-semite. Art doesn't care who made it. Taste is a personal matter. You can like Sam and Dave, Ligeti and the Carpenters. And why can't we all just get along?
Goodbye, Kids

Lew Anderson, who played Clarabell the Clown throughout most of the long TV run of the Howdy Doody Show and taught the kids of my generation not to think bad thoughts about boys with girls' names, died Sunday. What I didn't know before reading his obituary in today's New York Times is that Anderson was really a composer, arranger and bandleader. He founded the All-American Big Band which has been gigging every Friday night since 1997 at Birdland in New York.

Amazing what musicians will do to make a living.
New Choral Work Wows European Audiences

A new choral work by UK composer Joby Talbot has been making a big splash in Europe, with one reviewer saying: "I would go as far to suggest that Talbot's Path of Miracles is to the first decade of the 21st century what Arvo Part's Passio was twenty years earlier."

Joby Talbot (right) studied with Simon Bainbridge, Robert Saxton, Brian Elias and Louis Andriessen. He was one of four composers commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997, and the resulting Luminescence was premiered by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and has since been broadcast several times on BBC Radio 3. His movie soundtrack credits include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and he writes and performs alongside Neil Hannon in the UK pop phenomenon, The Divine Comedy.

Path of Miracles is a seventy minute long musical journey following the world's most enduring route of Catholic pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, and beyond to Finisterre. For the full story of New choral music's dream ticket click On An Overgrown Path.
Photo credit Chester Novello
Werewolves of London

Can music be too scary? According to a profile of film composer Hans Zimmer in today's Wall Street Journal (alas, accessible only to subscribers), the British Board of Film Classification threatened to put "The Da Vinci Code" off-limits to children under 15 if Sony didn't agree to tone down Zimmer's score, which it deemed "too tense." Saith the Journal:

"An opus for strings and liturgical choir, Mr. Zimmer's majestic work can be appreciated on its own merits. Largely written before he saw a rough cut of the film, the approximately 70-minute score is by turns violent and sacred, hostile and meditative, terrifying and lovely. Perhaps too violent, hostile and terrifying..."

The score, in all its frightening glory, was issued last Tuesday on the Decca label. The movie opens on every screen in America this Friday.
Blogging 911

That waskalwy wabbit Jeff Harrington has run off to Paris for a couple of weeks and left readers of his Net New Music Reblog in the lurch. Not to worry, though, Joe Drew and the crew at ANABlog have launched an Emergency Reblog to meet all your contemporary music needs while M. Harrington is on holiday.

For those of you who like your organs...well, big, the NY Times has a story today about a giant set of pipes in Philadelphia, in a hall named for a telephone company that thinks it's okay to tell the government who you are calling and when.

Have you read Lanier Sammons' review of Corey Dargel's Less Famous Than You yet?
Another Life

Tod Machover has just been named a visiting professor of composition at London's Royal Academy of Music. He joins Professor Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Craig Armstrong in this role, adding to a formidable roster of composition professors at the Academy led by Simon Bainbridge.

Machover is considered, by the L.A. Times at least, to be "the most wired composer in America," whatever that means. He studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and was the first Director of Musical Research at IRCAM in Paris. He has been Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge, USA) since it was founded in 1985.

Says here in the press release that he is currently working on two operas for first performance in 2008: Death and the Powers, a "robotic" opera with a libretto by US poet laureate Robert Pinsky, and Skellig, based on a novel by David Almond.
Outsourcing, Child Abuse and Love and Attention

Want to hear your new opera with a full orchestra but don't want to pay American prices? Outsource it to Shanghai. That's what Tan Dun has done with The First Emperor, the most lavish and expensive opera ever commissioned by the Met, which is scheduled for debut at Lincoln Center on December 21. Of course, it probably helps to speak Mandarin which both Tan and his director, the legendary filmmaker Yimou Zhang (To Live, Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers) do. The Times has the whole story.

Also in the Times today, Bernard Holland raises the question of whether reviving famous composers first works is a form of child abuse?

And speaking of child abuse, it looks like we're neglecting our bloggers. Go over to "Latest Blogger Updates" in the left column and work your way down the list. Leave comments. It's Mother's Day, for goodness sake.

Now Playing:
Chamber and Gamelan Works
Lou Harrison
New World Records

Like but-ter. A most welcome re-issue of a long out-of-print CRI release, with many of Harrison's greatest hits like "Concerto in Slendro," "Main Bersame-Sama," and "String Quartet Set." This is perfect music for plotting the overthrow of Indochine while sipping a gin and tonic with Somerset Maugham's ghost on the shaded veranda of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Sure, it's easy listening but the just intonation keeps it real. Resistance is futile.
An 0rgy of Great Modern Music

WHRB 95.3 FM in Boston is currently in the middle of their Mozart 0rgy. This is WHRB's longest-ever project, running continuously, around the clock, from May 8th to 18th. It is the world's only broadcast of the complete works of Mozart, and is available as a webcast. The Cambridge station has a great reputation for their music 0rgies, and in the next few weeks there are some delights for Sequenza21 readers including extended programmes on Duparc, Dukas, Finzi, Britten, Pears and Dorati. To celebrate this 0rgy of great music On An Overgrown Path has an exclusive interview with Ken Schultz, General Manager of WHRB-FM 95.3 FM. The discussion ranges from Bartok, through Vaughan Williams to Joe Morello and Charlie Parker. Click on over to Harvard Radio treads where BBC fears to go for the full interview.

Dispatch from BAM

The Brooklyn Phil put on a great show last night featuring music by Daniel Roumain, Leonard Bernstein, and Thea Musgrave. Under guest-conductor Chelsea Tipton, II, the orchestra's playing was rich and impassioned and definitely worth crossing the East River to hear.

The program opened with Roumain's "Hip Hop Essay." A twenty-minute flip-flopping from one drum-set driven ostinato to another, the whole thing feels pretty disorganized. With greater attention to harmony, Roumain could establish much more momentum than he does: as it is, the piece is all bark and no bite. A squawky little clarinet solo, though, makes for a surprising and well-timed ending, and, if a work ends effectively, I say it can't be all bad.

Bernstein's Symphony No. 1 "Jeremiah" followed. The passion and lyricism were refreshing after the Roumain, as was the much broader gestural and harmonic pallet. I'm not satisfied by the work's two-movement structure -- the first movement being for orchestra alone, the second featuring a mezzo-soprano (Pamela Dillard in this performance) singing excerpts from Lamentations -- and the grand, mid-century American idiom sounds a bit dusty these days. But if you're going to play a piece like this, you better go for every gush and swell, and the Brooklyn Phil did exactly that.

By far the evening's most accomplished music was provided by Thea Musgrave, who arranged some excepts from her 1985 opera "Harriet Tubman: A Woman Called Moses" for concert performance. Entitled "Remembering Harriet," the work is scored for orchestra, chorus, soloists, and narrator. The result is an exhilarating and searing forty-five minutes of brilliant orchestral writing, searing vocal lines, and unrestrained, unaffected passion. If anything, the music could use one or two more moments to cool off. But, after a fabulous and gutsy performance like the one delivered last night (special mention must be made of Cynthia Haymon's glorious soprano voice), one doesn't feel in any mood to complain. If the opera is anything as good as these excerpts suggest, I haven't a clue why opera companies don't jump on Musgrave's work. Her idiom is accessible without being mawkish and her command of dramatic flow seems complete.

P.S. Opted for Junior's cheesecake instead of the post-concert discussion with Musgrave. Can I ever be taken seriously again?


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